San Juan Jabloteh are into the main draw of the season-ending Digicel Pro Bowl after winning a battle of the bottom two Pro League teams 2-0 over St Ann’s Rangers on Friday night at Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva.
A 70th minute Brent Sam header, and an 84th minute tap-in from substitute striker Neil Mitchell following Sam’s pass across the penalty area, helped Jabloteh separate themselves from an almost equal strength Rangers team. The losers also had their chances, but failed to put them away, most notably when wide midfielder Keron Alexander headed wide of an unprotected net, just before Jabloteh scored their two goals.
The Pro Bowl begins on Friday when quarter-final matches will be played among the top seven Pro League teams and qualifiers Jabloteh. dangerously past an upright.
Defence Force head coach Ross Russell urged his footballers to be patient before they struck from their first meaningful attack through attacking midfielder Jerwyn Baltazar, who scored from atop the penalty area in the 20th minute.
Called “Bally” by teammates, Baltazar sent a powerful low shot away from the dive of Connection’s Kittitian goalkeeper Julani Archibald, after Curtis Gonzales re-directed Ross Russell Jr’s cross towards him. However, after some concern, joy returned to the W Connection camp when Suriname midfielder Steffano Rijssell brought them level at 1-1 in the 28th minute with a diving header from a rebound, when striker Jerrel Britto initially put a shot onto the crossbar. And Risjell was also clear and in shooting position in the 34th minute, but the Surinamese footballer always goes to his right, and Army goalie Kevin Graham read him like a book, diving low to save the shot.
Connection were again enjoying the best of play early in the second half, when Viveros was ejected by referee Neil Brizan in the 55th minute after cutting down Gonzales as he lined up a shot atop the penalty area. W Connection re-adjusted by replacing striker Britto with defensive midfielder Silvio Spann. And because they possess the ball so well, Connection continued to boss the game, and almost pressured Russell Jr into scoring an own goal.
Jorsling had not played for a couple of matches with a hamstring injury, but came on as a second half substitute and put Defence Force ahead at 2-1 in the 80th minute when he found the corner with a low shot onto Kerry Edwards’ pass. A minute later, Jones (A) guided in a cross that came all the way to the far post to level the scores again. All in the W Connection camp were jumping. It leaves the appetite whetted for the second clash between the teams on Tuesday night in Couva when new champions could be crowned, depending on the result.
UPCOMING PRO LEAGUE MATCHES:
(Ato Boldon Stadium)
6 pm - Central FC vs San Juan Jabloteh
8 pm - Defence Force vs W Connection
(Hasely Crawford Stadium)
7 pm - North East Stars vs St Ann’s Rangers
9 pm - Caledonia AIA vs Point Fortin Civic
DIGICEL PRO LEAGUE RESULT:
Defence Force 2 (Jerwyn Balthazar 20, Devorn Jorsling 80) W Connection 2 (Stefano Rijssel 29, Alvin Jones 81)